We are told in the blurb that being a grown up sucks. To emphasise this point, the leading lady Lola bounds onto the stage acting like a totally convincing eight year old, with a deliciously husky voice, gesticulating wildly and sporting a Metallica t-shirt. OK, we know she’s not really eight but Emmie Spencer must be having the time of her life convincing us otherwise as she enthusiastically informs us of the expedition she is about to embark upon. With all the pressures of life, work, jobs and responsibility, who wouldn’t want to regress to childhood occasionally?
Bug Camp is a thought provoking monologue and character driven play with a strong all female cast
Her humorous observations on the benefits of Aldi verses Waitrose and her child-like shopping list means there are plenty of light touches and laughs from the outset. The illusion of youth is shattered briefly by the introduction of another character; the screeching, social-media shallow ex-best friend Jas, played with style and the right amount of neurosis by Louise Devlin. When the pair start acting like a couple of eight year olds the audience is left to ponder whether the whole play will be an interaction between adults pretending to be kids; then on comes the third character.
Josephine Dimbleby is perfectly cast as Aleine, the serious, spectacled, store security officer, who grabs her five minutes in the spotlight with a beautiful blend of pathos and humour. The origins of her life-long nickname and connection to the girls is finally revealed, demonstrating in heart-wrenching anguish the wickedness of kids when it comes to bullying.
There is another equally important character in the form of the imaginary Metallica front man, James Hetfield. Abbi Douetil thrashes and air guitars her way through this performance with confidence and swagger, entirely in contrast with her other character, Lola’s sweet but sour daughter, Tilly.
The culmination of the play sees the characters arrive in Bug Camp but this, like many things in life, is not what it pertains to be. Lola’s reasons for her expedition and regression are revealed in an anxious finale. The tension in the final scene could have been played with much more jeopardy and less laughs as it was a critical point in the play, but the overall effect was still fulfilling to watch.
The set is a simple tripod tent covered with supermarket bags, some scattered autumn leaves. The orange netting representing the cordoned off area of Bug Camp is an inspired addition, which looks effective on a budget.
Broken Silence Theatre company’s apparently amusing premise of Bug Camp doesn’t do justice to the underlying darkness and depth of this shrewdly written - and directed - play by Paul Macauley. Having said this, Bug Camp is a thought provoking monologue and character driven play with a strong all female cast; it explores the tragedy of loss, friendship and family ties, mixed together with heavy metal music, air guitar and a bag of strawberry laces. Childs play? No way.